The panelists (f.l.t.r.): Narayan Hegde, Hannah Jaenicke, Sr. Maria Vida C. Cordero and Jock. R. Anderson.
Photo: © Food Security Center

Family farming is the only solution for food security!

The key role that family farms play in enhancing nutrition, food security and poverty reduction was at the centre of this year’s World Food Day Colloquium at the Food Security Center of the University of Hohenheim.

One of the key demands raised at this year’s World Food Day Colloquium by Jock R. Anderson, former Agricultural Policy and Strategy Advisor to the World Bank, was that humanity should not tolerate food insecurity. The Colloquium, traditionally held by the Food Security Center of the University of Hohenheim, Germany, on the 16th October, World Food Day, dealt with the topic of “Family farming – a solution for food and nutrition security?” 

Anderson maintained that making sustainable progress in combatting hunger and malnutrition was a great challenge. One crucial instrument in this context was agricultural research, a field in which above all the countries affected by hunger were unfortunately investing far too little. Here, Anderson held that the public sector and, in particular, the private sector, had a role to play, with the public sector having to set the environment for private investments. But this was not at all easy. “The critical thing would be to trigger political will to make it happen,” Anderson said.

How cows can help escape poverty

The family farms still bear a considerable potential to make a sustainable contribution to food security. Various examples of how this potential can be made use of were shown at the Colloquium. Narayan Hegde of the BAIF Development Research Foundation in Pune, India, gave an account of the organisation’s experiences. BAIF activities above all focus on the rural poor and smallholders. They lack irrigation options, the fields provide little yield, and livestock yields are poor, too. On average, the rural poor in India spend around 60 per cent of their income on food. “Enhancing the productivity of family farms is the challenge India has to deal with,” Narayan Hegde told the meeting. Alongside water resource management, improvement of paddy production and the introduction of agri-horti-forestry, adopting animal husbandry in the smallholder farms and improvements in livestock production have proven most successful, especially with regard to dairy. Now there are 4,000 milk collection centres in 16 Federal states to which around four million families in 100,000 villages belong. With cows from native breeds, they produce milk with a value of 1.4 billion US dollars each year. After five years, the centres are self-sustaining. 

Training the youth is essential

Sr. Maria Vida C. Cordero of the Archdiocese Manila and Agricultural Advisor to the Philippine Ecology Ministry introduced the audience to the sustainable agriculture approach of MASIPAG. MASIPAG is a farmer-led network of people’s organisations, NGOs and scientists working towards the sustainable use and management of biodiversity through farmers’ control of genetic and biological resources, agricultural production and associated knowledge. The network’s core values include a bottom-up approach, farmer-scientist partnership, farmer-led research and training and a farmer-to-farmer mode of transfer, just to mention a few. Sustainable agriculture for smallholder farmers needs diversification and integration to bring income and social security to the family. At the Hohenheim conference, Cordero stressed the very important role of training the youth in sustainable agriculture in the sustainable development of the family farms.

Entry points to nutrition-sensitive agriculture

Another concept to increase food security is nutrition-sensitive agriculture. Hannah Jaenicke, Coordinator of the Horticulture Centre of Competence, Bonn, Germany, presented six case studies the aim of which was to analyse the entry points for nutrition sensitive agriculture. Five entry points were identified. Enabling policies are of particular importance, as the example of Brazil showed. There, the government orients its policies on supporting family farming, as well as on food and nutritional aspects and development. Further suitable entry points include elements of the food chain and also the topic of livestock. Appropriate beneficial groups, awareness and capacity building and mechanisms of collaboration are additional aspects that a nutrition-sensitive agriculture can take up. In many cases, the role of collaboration is very often over- or underestimated. 

If the smallholder family farmers are to make a sustainable contribution to more food security, they need to have a greater say and have to become more integrated in decision-making processes. One result of the discussion was that this also applied in particular to the better involvement of women. Furthermore, there were calls for more farmer-oriented research and action and farmer-driven innovations. More investment in government-supported agricultural extension and better training of consultants was another option to achieve this goal. But, the discussion revealed, family farming is the only solution to food security, even if it is not an easy one. 

Beate Wörner - Journalist, Fellbach/Germany